Service dog protects the country

May 3, 2024 | 5 Min read
Biosecurity service dog Vespa has done more than his fair share helping to keep Australia safe, intercepting 1300 biosecurity risk items across 129 commodities last year – the most of any biosecurity detector dog in the country.

Biosecurity service dog Vespa has done more than his fair share helping to keep Australia safe, intercepting 1300 biosecurity risk items across 129 commodities last year – the most of any biosecurity detector dog in the country.

The six-year-old black labrador was consequently honoured with The Australasian Animal Registry Service Dog Award.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry secretary Adam Fennessy PSM congratulated Vespa’s handler, Perrie, on receiving the award.

“Congratulations to both Perrie and Vespa on being recognised for their very important work at Sydney’s International Airport and mail centre.

 “It takes a special type of person to train and work with our detector dogs, and Perrie and Vespa have displayed exemplary dedication to keeping Australia free from exotic pests and diseases,” Mr Fennessy said.

Perrie has only worked as a handler for two years and was inspired by the TV show Border Security.

“As a handler, I can pursue my passion for animals and environmental conservation by protecting Australia from exotic pests and diseases.

 “I feel a great sense of pride, celebrating the dogs’ successes and seeing the dogs reach new heights with their training.

“I am very lucky to have such a wonderful colleague in Vespa, as she consistently brings a hundred percent to the work she does,” Perrie said.

When she’s not hot on the heels of biosecurity risks, Vespa likes to put up her paws and unwind sitting in the sun, playing with her toys  or swimming in the pool.

In 2023, Vespa intercepted:

  • 278 items that could have carried foot and mouth disease
  • 123 items that could have carried African swine fever.
  • 29 items that could have carried the hitchhiker pest Khapra Beetle, a national priority plant pest that can infest more than 100 different commodities.

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry currently has 50 biosecurity detector dogs, 52 handlers and 8 detector dog technical supervisors working across the country.

Biosecurity Detector Dogs are trained to detect 9 target odour groups, which translates into more than 200 biosecurity risk commodities and on average, intercept up to 45,000 risk items nationally each year. 

The three most common items the detector dogs find are seeds, fruit, and meat.

Labradors make up Australia’s entire biosecurity detector dog program due to their extraordinary sense of smell.

 

 

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